On May 19th, 2020, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) announced the expansion of the eligibility criteria to Michigan’s social equity program. As of June 1st, 2020, the number of disproportionately impacted communities increased from 41 to 184. 

MRA Expands Eligibility Criteria of Social Equity Program

According to the MRA, this expansion will make it, “easier for individuals from those communities to qualify to participate in the program.” 

What is the Social Equity Program?

Section 8 of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (MRTMA) requires the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) to develop a plan to promote and encourage participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. This is in effort to positively impact those communities.

Based on last year’s survey results and workgroups, the MRA developed a Social Equity Program that identified communities as eligible using two criteria: 

  • marijuana convictions, and
  • poverty rates.

Initially, communities which had marijuana-related convictions greater than the state median and had 30% or more of the population living below the federal poverty level were identified as disproportionately impacted communities. In addition to these communities, communities with 20% or more of the population living below the federal poverty level now qualify. 

This expansion results in a current total of 184 disproportionately impacted communities.

Fee Reduction and Other Changes

Applicants are longer required to live in a disproportionately impacted community to be eligible for a marijuana-related conviction fee reduction or a caregiver fee reduction. In addition, a 40% fee reduction has been added for applicants who have been convicted of a marijuana-related felony. 

Below are available fee reductions, effective June 1, 2020:

Michigan's Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) Social Equity Program Fee Reductions as of June 1st, 2020

Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) Social Equity Program Fee Reductions as of June 1st, 2020

Additionally, applicants/licensees who qualify for the maximum fee reduction will now receive a 75% reduction in their application and annual licensing fees. An applicant can meet any of the above criteria and be eligible for the associated fee reduction, regardless of where they reside in Michigan.

Currently, fee reductions last indefinitely so long as the applicant/licensee remains eligible for the fee reductions and operates within a disproportionately impacted community. Applicants/licenses may now operate outside of a disproportionately impacted community; if they choose to do so, the fee reductions will expire after the first two (2) years of operation.

What Communities Are Included in Michigan’s Social Equity Program?

Below is a list of communities currently included in Michigan’s social equity program:

Allegan: Fennville, Lee Township

Arenac: Alger, Sterling

Barry: Nashville

Bay: Bay City, Midland, Pinconning

Berrien: Benton Harbor, Berrien Spring, Coloma, Eau Claire, Niles, Oronoko Township, Sodus Township, Watervliet                                                                   

Branch: Bronson, Butler Township, Coldwater, Gilead Township, Quincy, Sherwood, Sherwood Township, Union City

Calhoun: Albion, Battle Creek, Springfield, Tekonsha, Tekonsha Township, Union City

Cass: Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg, Lagrange Township, Marcellus, Vandalia

Eaton: Charlotte, Vermontville

Emmet: McKinley Township, Wawatam Township

Genesee: Clio, Flint, Flint Township, Mt. Morris, Mt. Morris Township

Gratiot: Alma, Bethany Township, Breckenridge, Fulton Township, Perrinton, Seville Township, Wheeler Township

Hillsdale: Montgomery

Ingham: East Lansing, Lansing

Ionia: Ionia, Muir, Orleans Township, Ronald Township

Isabella: Coldwater Township, Fremont Township, Mt. Pleasant, Shepherd

Jackson: Hanover, Jackson, Springport

Kalamazoo: Galesburg, Kalamazoo

Kent: Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids

Lapeer: Clifford, Columbiaville, Imlay City, Lapeer

Lenawee: Adrian, Morenci

Macomb: Center Line, Mt. Clemens

Mecosta: Aetna Township, Barryton, Big Rapids, Deerfield Township, Fork Township, Mecosta, Millbrook Township, Morley, Sheridan Township, Stanwood, Wheatland Township

Monroe: Luna Pier

Montcalm: Carson City, Crystal Township, Edmore, Greenville, Home Township, Howard City, Lakeview, McBride, Pierson, Stanton

Muskegon: Holton Township, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Twin Lake

Newaygo: Beaver Township, Big Prairie Township, Bridgeton Township, Denver Township, Fremont, Grant, Hesperia, Lilley Township, Merrill Township, Newaygo, Troy Township, White Cloud, Wilcox Township

Oakland: Hazel Park, Pontiac, Royal Oak Township

Ogemaw: Horton Township, Prescott, Richland Township, Rose City, West Branch

Ottawa: Allendale Township

Roscommon: Higgins Township, Richfield Township, Roscommon, Roscommon Township, St. Helen

Saginaw: Bridgeport Township, Carrollton Township, Chapin Township, Chesaning, Kochville Township, Marion Township, Saginaw, Spaulding Township

Shiawassee: Owosso

St. Clair: Port Huron

St. Joseph: Sturgis, Sturgis Township, Three Rivers, White Pigeon Township

Tuscola: Akron, Caro, Dayton Township, Gagetown, Gilford Township, Kingston, Koylton Township, Mayville, Vassar, Vassar Township

Van Buren: Arlington Township, Bangor Township, Bloomingdale, Breedsville, Columbia Township, Covert Township, Decatur, Decatur Township, Hartford, Keeler Township, Lawrence, Mattawan, Paw Paw, South Haven

Washtenaw: Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti

Wayne: Dearborn, Detroit, Ecorse, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Inkster, Melvindale, River Rouge, Wayne

Wexford: Antioch Township, Cadillac, Colfax Township, Mesick, Slagle Township

How Can I Apply for the Social Equity Program? 

According to the MRA, their social equity representatives will continue to assist individuals with completing the social equity application. This will allow the MRA to determine if the individual qualifies for participation in the program.

At this time, the social equity team will be providing remote application assistance to qualifying applicants applying for adult-use licenses. This will be available on a one-on-one basis, as plans are made for a safe return to in-person sessions.

Later this year, the MRA will host a job fair.  They are currently preparing to post job listings on their website and connect qualifying applicants with training resources that will help them develop the skills necessary for employment in the marijuana industry. 

The Takeaway

Expanding eligibility to more individuals, based on the framework that has been set up, is a great step forward. However, the issue is with supply/availability and cost. Since fewer municipalities have opted in to the MRTMA, fewer properties are available for social equity applicants to choose from. 

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While reduced fees and state application assistance is vital for social equity applicant success, the problem of finding a location and then obtaining local approval still very much exists.

For more information, contact Michigan’s Social Equity Team by email or by phone at (517) 284 – 8599.

Sydney Fairman (38 Posts)

Sydney Fairman is the Social Media Marketing Specialist for the Law Offices of Barton Morris and Cannabis Legal Group. While at Central Michigan University, Sydney was an active member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and held various internships, leadership and part-time positions. These places of employment include the City of Mt. Pleasant, Grand Central Magazine, Mackinac State Historic Parks and WCMU Public Media (PBS). She graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelors Degree in Applied Arts in Integrative Public Relations and minor in Journalism. Sydney comes to us after her first position post-college with Gale, a Cengage Company as a Marketing Associate. She possesses a passion for writing, marketing and graphic design and showcases this on Cannabis Legal Group's website and social media channels.


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